Far-left politics

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Far-left politics or extreme-left politics are left-wing politics that are further to the left than mainstream centre-left politics. The far left seeks equality of outcome and the dismantlement of all forms of social stratification.[1] Most far leftists seek to abolish all forms of hierarchy, particularly the inequitable distribution of wealth and power.[1] The far left seeks a society in which everyone is provided equal economic and social opportunities, and no one has excessive wealth or power over others.[1]

The far left typically believes that inegalitarian systems must be overthrown through revolution in order to establish egalitarian societies, while the centre left works within the system to achieve egalitarianism.[1] In societies that tolerate dissent, far-left groups usually participate in the democratic process to advance their goals.[2] The far left demands radical changes to dismantle unequal societies, including confiscation of wealth that is concentrated in a small elite, and redistribution of that wealth in an egalitarian manner.[1]

Several far-left movements have used violence to achieve their goals, from the French revolution's Reign of Terror, to mass murders committed by the Communist regimes of leaders such as Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot.[3][4] Even more deaths under far-left regimes have occurred as a result of Marxist schemes of revolutionary transformations of society through forced labour, which has led to malnutrition, disease and mass death, considered genocide by some scholars.[3] Far-left parties in power have often become centered around cults of personality, and instituted totalitarian dictatorships.[3][5][6]

Definitions and characteristics

In France, the term extrême-gauche ("far left") is a generally accepted term for political groups to the left part of the French Communist Parties (such as Trotskyists, Maoists, Anarchists and New Leftist).[7]

In Italy, The Left - The Rainbow describes itself as "Radical left".

In Germany, Eckhard Jesse, a political scientist, regards different kinds of Trotskyists, anarcho-syndicalists, anarcho-communists, National Communists, Authoritarian socialists, Maoists and Autonomists as local "far left".These people include both Authoritarianists and Libertarianists.

Dr. Luke March of the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, defines the "far left" in Europe as those that place themselves to the left of social democracy, which they see as insufficiently left-wing. The two main sub-types are the so-called "radical left", for their desire for fundamental change to the capitalist system while accepting of democracy, and the "extreme left" who are more hostile to liberal democracy and denounce any compromise with capitalism. March sees four major subgroups within contemporary European far-left politics: communists, democratic socialists, populist socialists and social populists.[8]

Hloušek and Kopeček add secondary characteristics to those identified by March and Mudde, such as anti-Americanism, anti-globalization, opposition to NATO and rejection of European integration.[9]

McClosky and Chong surveyed a number of militant, revolutionary far-left groups in the US and they argue that, like far-right extremists, they tend to show traits of authoritarianism.[10] McKlosky and Chong further assert that in the USA, the far-left groups they studied are deeply estranged from American society and highly critical of what they perceive as the spiritual and moral degeneration of American institutions, they view American society as dominated by conspiratorial forces that are working to defeat their ideological aims.[10]

Political parties

A substantial number of far-left parties gave birth to terrorist organisations during the 1960s and 1970s,[11] such as the Red Brigades and the Red Army Faction.[12]

In the United States, John George and Laird Wilcox have identified the Communist Party USA, Socialist Workers Party, Black Panther Party, Students for a Democratic Society, and Progressive Labor Party as some of the groups active on what he refers to as the "far-left".[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e Woshinsky, Oliver H., Explaining Politics: Culture, Institutions, and Political Behavior (Oxon, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: Routledge, 2008) pp. 145–149.
  2. ^ Martin, Gus, Essentials of Terrorism: Concepts and Controversies (London: Sage Publications, Ltd., 2008) p. 28.
  3. ^ a b c Michael Mann (2005). The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing. Cambridge University Press. pp. 318–352. ISBN 9780521538541. 
  4. ^ Stephen R. C. Hicks (2004). Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Scholargy Publishing. p. 192. ISBN 9781592476428. 
  5. ^ Erik Kuhonta (2011). The Institutional Imperative: The Politics of Equitable Development in Southeast Asia. Stanford University Press. p. 232. ISBN 9780804770835. 
  6. ^ Michael J. Lynch (2004). Mao. Psychology Press. p. 126. ISBN 9780415215770. 
  7. ^ Cosseron, Serge (ed.). Le dictionnaire de l'extrême gauche. Paris: Larousse, 2007. p. 20
  8. ^ March, Luke (2008). Contemporary Far Left Parties in Europe (PDF). Berlin: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. p. 3. ISBN 978-3-86872-000-6. 
  9. ^ Hloušek, Vít; Lubomír Kopeček (2010). Origin, ideology and transformation of political parties: East-Central and Western Europe compared. Ashgate Publishing. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-7546-7840-3. 
  10. ^ a b Herbert McClosky, Dennis Chong (1985). "Similarities and Differences Between Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals". British Journal of Political Science (Cambridge University Press) 15 (03): 329–363. doi:10.1017/s0007123400004221. 
  11. ^ Weinberg, Leonard; Pedahzur, Ami (2008). Political Parties and Terrorist Groups. Routledge studies in extremism and democracy. Volume 10. Routledge. p. 53. ISBN 9781135973377. 
  12. ^ Chaliand, Gérard; Blin, Arnaud (2007). The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to Al Qaeda. University of California Press. p. 257. ISBN 9780520247093. 
  13. ^ Pierard, Richard (1998). Journal of Church and State (Oxford Journals) 40 (4): 912–913. doi:10.1093/jcs/40.4.912.  Missing or empty |title= (help)